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Day 4 – I am Grateful that I Can Think and That I Have Free Will to Use Those Thoughts to Change My Life

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[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence. – Rober Frost [/quote]

The ability to think. Such a precious faculty.

When you think of people like Malala Yousafzai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week as an activist for female education in the Taliban-ruled Swat Valley, you begin to realize that education is a privilege that is denied to millions of people around the globe.

Millions of people so far removed from our comfortable western world educational institutions. Where nobody has to fight everyday for the right to learn, to question to think. The free will to think and to be inspired by revolutionary ideas is indeed a precious privilege that we take for granted.

Yet, in our high-tech world, we see thinking as such an obsessive activity reserved for the over-sensitive, the nerds, the writers, the misfits. You think too much. Stop Over-thinking. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think. This basic mental faculty has earned a bad reputation over the years as relationships have moved from the ‘engaged’ end of the spectrum to the more superficial. The ability to think critically and clearly is a privilege if you think about it. For a long time, I didn’t think that way though. When I moved to India, I was suddenly among people of varying educational, aesthetic and intellectual backgrounds. All so different from mine.

Peter Clemens, author of The Change Blog (www.thechangeblog.com) writes that people around us have the free will to help or ignore us. I say the opposite is true too. I’ve turned his words around with the thought that we also have the free will to help or ignore others. We have the free will to embrace or reject others’ visions; to be rude or kind; to kill or cure; to love or hate; to be genuine or to manipulate; to treat them like kindred beings or to use them; to be honest or lie; to be grateful to them or to resent them. We have the free will to choose all of those things for everyone from our loved ones to the janitor that opens the door for us.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb48″]The good that we strive to attract as well as the evil we hope to avoid are both, nine times out of ten, the result of interactions with our fellow human beings.[/quote] Peter Clemens, Author of the Change Blog.

Prayers, meditations and affirmations are essential. According to Clemens, this introspection has the power to transform our gratitude from an internal endeavour to one that is manifested in the real world. One can do this by letting the people in our lives, from the most important, to the ones on the periphery know of the ways in which they inspire gratitude in us.

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6EG1R1lewE[/youtube]
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At first, it was a huge cultural shock when I encountered different types of people. India is a country of extremes. There are extremely rich and extremely poor people living side by side. There are people who have no concept of the basic politeness, social intelligence and thought processes that run our lives in the western world. Some people have no verbal filters, blurting out rude observations – all unsolicited. At first, I was repulsed by such crassness. I used to look down upon these people for their ignorance, rudeness and superstitious beliefs. Until I realized that my ability to think and to set lofty goals are a result of a privilege. A privilege that is rarer than most people realize: access to higher education. it took me a long time to realize that my education does not make me superior to these so-called illiterate people. My cook is far more intelligent than some of my college classmates. She has not attended a single day of university. I realize now that the ability to think critically and articulate sophisticated thoughts is a blessing – not something I have earned.

I am grateful for a world class education. I am grateful for parents’ generosity in helping me pay for grad school. I am grateful I grew up in a country where education was freely available. A friend of mine put herself through school by working part-time jobs and relying heavily on student loans. She came from a single parent family of seven kids, all of whom were in Africa. Where I live now, there are people so far below the poverty line that even primary school is a pipe dream. I am grateful that I’ve been exposed to ideas that have expanded my understanding if these people. I am grateful all my schools had comfortable desks, air conditioning and heating facilities. These are schools in India where kids sit in the infernal heat, studying with crude writing tools, far, far away form the tech-oriented, internet-ruled classrooms that I know. I am grateful that at the ripe old age of 28, I can go back to school for another Masters or Doctorate degree if I choose. I’ve seen seven year old girls who are pulled our of school to sweep floors of rich peoples’ homes. I’m grateful that I have the privilege of holding pen in my hand, not a broom. I am grateful that I can think and that I have free will to use those thoughts to change my life.

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Today’s Task

Make a list of five people in your life (doesn’t have to be loves ones or friends, just people you interact with everyday) that have impacted for in a positive way. Write them a note saying why they are important to you. Add in how they’ve changed your life. Then pick up the phone, call them and tell them.

This exercise was inspired by the following video from Soul Pancake:

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg[/youtube]